What a positively delightful one-hour experience we have enjoyed for 24 years (Thursdays, noon-1 p.m.) in Cogswell Park (Lytton Avenue and Ramona Street).
The artist on July 14 (Zydeco Flames) gave all attending a true taste of Louisiana culture -- pretty wild lunch break.
The series this year is only six concerts and concludes on Aug. 10. Up to this year there have been nine concerts and the word is there will no longer be a Brown Bag series next year.
I certainly want to thank all you attendees over the past three years that have made pledges (then paid them) that I solicited from you all. May I ask that you join me in writing a note or e-mail to any (or all) of our Palo Alto City Council members expressing your wish to have both the Twilight Concert and the Brown Bag series continue.
How about writing a letter to the editor of the Palo Alto Weekly?
Walter Hays Drive
An air of specter
The July 21 item on Palo Alto's growing crow population can invoke in some an air of specter. Crows, like ravens and blue jays (all of the corvid family), get widely mixed reviews by judgmental humans.
Scientists frequently report corvids' unique brain power, which may explain our ambivalence toward them. Some societies attach a kind of spiritual wisdom to crows and ravens, and several of my friends enjoy having breakfast on their patios with affable, playful blue jays who by and by prefer eating from your fingers.
In Tokyo, storied crows from the Imperial Palace Park fly downtown to drop nuts in the path of cars to enable their extraction of the meat. Lately that clever bunch has been noted dropping nuts in passenger crossings; it's safer.
Your readers can witness a corvid miracle on the net: it's a video showing how a crow fashions a tool to pluck an inaccessible morsel from a tube in 30 seconds (www.sciencemag.org/feature/data/crow). Crows are the only creatures besides humans who construct tools, scientists say. Chimps and their ilk use tools, but don't make them.
Personally, I love these cawing, screeching, familial friends even if they presume to enjoy eggs and meat and occasionally make unpleasant sounds, like we do. Not all of God's creatures are accomplished singers.
Sand Hill Circle
I still remember going door to door during the Measure A Parcel Tax campaign. I brought my son with me as a companion and potential ice-breaker.
I worked hard, walking door to door, explaining to Palo Altans that the passage of Measure A would mean that the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) would have $9.3 million each year to avoid teacher layoffs, prevent significant increases in class sizes and restore critical cuts to instructional programs including secondary class offerings, elementary literacy, math and art programs, counseling services and instructional materials.
I explained that no funds would pay for central administration or salary increases. The district's central administration, which reported back in March that it is understaffed by 14 fulltime employees, is currently spending a good deal of time doing a feasibility study of a Mandarin Immersion language program, where a very small percentage of elementary students would be taught Chinese during the school day.
I will feel like I lied to my neighbors if PAUSD starts up a brand new program that was never part of the district's Strategic Plan. I wouldn't have campaigned for Measure A if I thought the district would be dedicating its time to this luxury item.
Let's make sure that district resources are used for all students and existing programs, and save specialty programs like this for when we have time and money to spare.
Middle East background
As violence escalates in Israel, Gaza and Lebanon, it is important to remember important facts that the mainstream media usually neglect. And the most important of these is that there are reasons for the violence that perpetually troubles that region of the world.
In particular, the major cause of the trouble is the continued illegal occupation by Israel of all of Palestine, territories conquered by Israel by force in 1967.
The occupation is the reason so many Palestinians support Hamas. They're not raving anti-Semites or Nazis; they just don't see any other party that effectively opposes the occupation.
Israel's response to the Palestinian election of Hamas has been a concerted effort to punish the Palestinian people for voting the wrong way. And the United States has backed Israel all the way, as it always does (so much for supporting "democracy" in the Middle East), and there is a reason for this, too.
Israel wants to keep most of the territories it has conquered by force and its continuing violence is intended to break any Palestinian resistance to the occupation.
None of this excuses terrorist acts by Hamas or anyone else against civilians. Such acts are always crimes. But there is a difference between a crime committed in resistance to a serious injustice and a crime committed for no reason.
When the former goes on, you condemn the crime, but you also demand that the injustice end as well -- and that means ending the illegal Israeli occupation.
The mainstream media won't talk about any of this and that's why it's important to remember -- there are reasons for the violence in the Middle East.
Stop the bloodshed
The wanton destruction of the infrastructure in Gaza and now Lebanon is clear evidence that Israel is totally unconcerned that large numbers of innocent civilians are being killed and 900,000 rendered homeless.
During the last 24 hours Israel has destroyed a milk factory, a paper-box factory, a convoy of ambulances and 46 bridges in a grotesque show of force that has all but paralyzed Lebanon.
What is even more outrageous is the silence and complicity of our government which even went so far as to oppose a U.N. cease-fire resolution. Israel has every right to defend itself from reckless and provocative attacks from Hamas and Hezbollah but the Israeli response is totally disproportionate to the provocation.
At the same time, Palestinians have every right to resist an illegal occupation and seek the release of 10,000 prisoners, many of whom have been brutally tortured. The sad irony is that the large-scale destruction of Gaza and Lebanon will surely bolster support for Hezbollah and Hamas and create many generations of Palestinians and Lebanese who will be seething with anger and revenge and put all Israelis and Americans at considerable risk.
This will continue until the American public demands an immediate halt to unconditional financial and military support for Israel.
Time for efficiency
The message from the world's climate scientists is clear: Global warming is real, its impacts are increasingly evident and substantial emissions reductions are needed to avoid dangerous interference with the climate system.
We can reduce the heat-trapping emissions that contribute to global warming by shifting our societal investments away from fossil fuels to cleaner technologies such as electricity from wind and solar power, more fuel-efficient vehicles, more energy-efficient technologies and by slowing deforestation.
A market-based structure of cap-and-trade offers a flexible and cost-effective way to reduce global-warming pollution. Direct investments in energy efficiency and clean energy will benefit consumers by minimizing any price impacts of the program.
Several Bills, sponsored by Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, Henry Waxman and Jim Jeffords are under consideration. I hope the people of Palo Alto will support these.